With ISO 9001:2015 being launched this month, the implications of the revised standard have been widely discussed in chat rooms and forums. There is little doubt that debate will continue as we see how audits are conducted and companies develop their QMS in response to the 2015 version.
As always auditors will have their own opinions and expect differing degrees of objective evidence, so here is our opinion on how to show Leadership within an organisation.
One of the seven core principles of ISO 9001:2008 has always been “Top Management support and show involvement with the implementation of the Management System”. So what are the changes proposed for the 2015 revision?
In ISO 9001:2015, Section 5 covers the requirements for “Leadership and Commitment for the Quality Management System” (QMS) and is, in many respects, similar to the 2008 version in which it is called “Management Responsibility”.
In our view, the removal of any references to a “Management Representative” to whom certain responsibilities for the QMS could be delegated is significant. Whilst this change does not mean an organisation should remove a person with this title if it will be detrimental to the QMS, it does mean that Top Management cannot delegate complete responsibility. i.e. we can’t just leave it all to the Management Rep.
It is clear that the revision seeks to ensure that management, at the highest level, are fully engaged as an integral part of the management system, with full accountability for its effectiveness.
The wording indicates that with a broader remit, the active involvement of top management is critical to the operation of the QMS, as it will only be at that level where sufficient awareness and appreciation of the broader commercial environment will exist. It will be interesting to assess the experience of businesses being audited under the revised standard and the interpretation applied to the text by auditors. One thing is certain; top management will need to be committed to implementing and promoting their QMS throughout the entire organisation.
As much of Section 5 of ISO 9001:2015 is in line with its 2008 predecessor, for many organisations it is probable that substantial changes will not be necessary.
Look at how you currently operate your QMS, and check that there is the ability to show:
The implementation of the QMS is fully integrated into the business and not a bolt-on. By this we mean that you’re not just doing it for the certification audit! Make sure that your QMS is actually adding value to your business. We’ve heard it said 1000 times but the QMS is just about how the business is managed and improved.
Top management are actively involved with monitoring, assessing and measuring the effectiveness of the QMS. Firstly, ensure that you understand exactly how your QMS works! Many top managers leave that to the person who is responsible for quality, whereas in reality it is equally as important as understanding the safety and environmental aspects of your business. Consider top level management audits and reviews of the QMS.
Top management are setting the quality and business objectives, ensuring they are understood, communicated and implemented, and manage and monitor outcomes and progress. Make sure your staff know that longer term objectives are set within the business and that you have plans in place to work towards them.
The importance of continual improvement is promoted, reinforced and championed by top management. Who wants to work for an organisation that plods along and doesn’t strive to make things better?
Staff roles, responsibilities and levels of authority are clearly identified, communicated and understood throughout the organisation. Look at your organisation chart; make sure the hierarchy adequately reflects the working of the business and that the lines of communication between the roles are well defined. Keeping this document in a central location that can be accessed by all staff ensures that everyone is informed of how things should run.
Business, regulatory and statutory requirements and responsibilities are clearly communicated, acted upon and there is an evidenced level of understanding of the importance of compliance. In other words, talk to your staff and make sure they understand their obligations!
Customer satisfaction is assessed, monitored and managed as a priority. Customers always come first, so collecting feedback from them and acting on it is vital. Even if your customer feedback is glowing, you can still action factors that will ensure it stays that way.
Top management are reviewing resource requirements and ensuring that adequate resources are available. This is not just about ensuring that there is enough resources. Those resources must also be adequate, so suitable IT equipment, software and storage must be provided, and employees involved directly with the management of the QMS should have sufficient instruction, training and time to carry out their duties.
If we had to summarise Section 5 into one sentence?